Date of Graduation


Document Type

Thesis (MS)

Program Affiliation

Molecular Carcinogenesis

Degree Name

Masters of Science (MS)

Advisor/Committee Chair

Ellen R. Richie, PhD

Committee Member

Bradley McIntyre, PhD

Committee Member

David Johnson, PhD

Committee Member

Mark Bedford, PhD

Committee Member

Richard Wood, PhD


The contribution of recent thymic emigrants (RTEs) to the peripheral naïve T cell population is necessary to maintain diversity of the T cell receptor (TCR) repertoire and produce immune responses against newly encountered antigens.

The thymus involutes with age, after irradiation or chemotherapy, and due to severe viral infections. Thymus involution results in decreased thymopoiesis and RTE output leading to a reduced diversity of peripheral T cells. This increases susceptibility to disease and impairs immune responsiveness to vaccines. Therefore, studies aimed at maintaining or regenerating thymic function are integral for maintaining and restoring peripheral TCR diversity.

Mice that express a K5.CyclinD1 transgene expression have a severely hyperplastic thymus that fails to undergo involution. Both thymocyte and TEC development appear normal in these mice. We have used the K5.CyclinD1 transgenic model to test the hypothesis that preventing thymus involution will sustain RTE output and incorporation into the peripheral T cell pool to prevent naïve T cell depletion with age. The K5.CyclinD1 transgene was crossed to the RAG2p-GFP transgenic model so that RTEs could be tracked by the intensity of the GFP signal. The frequency and number of RTEs in naïve CD4 splenic T cells was analyzed at monthly intervals to 5 months of age. Using this double transgenic approach, we determined that preventing thymus involution does maintain or enhance the number of RTEs in the peripheral T cell pool before and after thymus involution.


thymus, involution, Cyclin D1, recent thymic emigrants, aging